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Third dog shooting case in court; complaints adding up

Tlayne Reichling and Brida

The vexing problem of animal control - specifically dogs - will see another chapter written Monday in Hubbard County District Court.

That's when a rural resident, Russell Patrick Olson, 44, will enter into a plea agreement in a dog shooting case.

Initially facing a felony charge of cruelty to animals, Olson likely will plead to a misdemeanor charge of criminal property damage. The felony will be dismissed.

"I would prefer the county having some dog control" ordinances, said Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne. But absent some guidance or a county ordinance, all prosecutors have at their disposal is a dangerous dog statute.

And Tlayne Reichling, whose two-year-old Corgi terrier died Nov. 1 after being shot by Olson, said her small dog wasn't dangerous. Olson is her neighbor.

Reichling said her family discovered Brida's body in their yard off Grouse Road Nov. 1 when the terrier didn't return home Halloween night.

Where the dog was shot is unclear.

Olson maintained the dog was nipping at his kids and chasing deer when he shot her in his own yard. But could a small terrier have run some distance home with a .22 caliber bullet lodged in her?

Hubbard County authorities meanwhile have investigated two other complaints involving dogs.

"One was a frustrated farmer who was tired of the neighbor's dogs chasing his cattle," said Sheriff Frank Homer.

"I think it's more coincidental than that we're having a rash of shootings," Dearstyne said.

Two Hubbard County men were arraigned earlier this week in the shootings of two dogs in the southern part of the county last fall.

But the shootings nevertheless bother Rochelle Hamp, director of Headwaters Animal Shelter.

"As with any kind of neighborhood dispute, you can't let it go that the extreme," Hamp said. "You need to talk to them, talk to the civil authorities."

Hamp, Dearstyne and Homer all stress personal animal control, and say a "shoot first" mentality is unacceptable.

"As a pet lover, I feel pet owners should be responsible for their pets," Dearstyne said.

Dogs cannot be allowed to bark constantly, kill their neighbors' chickens, relieve themselves on the neighbor's lawn and get into the neighbor's garbage, Hamp stresses.

"It's a myriad of things," she said. "What would provoke someone to do something that cruel in the first place (shooting a dog) or have they warned those neighbors 15 times?"

Communication with the neighbors is the best and probably the fastest way to resolve such a dispute, Hamp asserts.

Reichling said she was unaware her dog was causing problems, or she would have chained her up.

Reichling's family had three dogs at the time Brida was shot. The family's Australian shepherd suffered a gunshot wound to the neck the week before Brida died. That dog recovered.

"We fenced in our yard," Reichling said, after Brida was shot. "We didn't know they were running in their yard or we would have put up a fence sooner."

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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